By Cassie Camara who is the mama behind @camara.crew on Instagram and click here for her blog Camara Crew.
I have three kiddos under the age of 4. Our oldest daughter will be 4 in July and is supposed to go to school in September. Being a mom to 3-pre K toddlers can be extremely busy but we do our best to try to implement various learning opportunities at home for all of them. Each time they can look very different but as long as our kids are having fun and learning something new in the process that is all that matters to us.
A lot of the time the focus for structured activities is on our 3.5 year old daughter. We are trying to prepare her for starting JK in September. She is starting to ask a lot of questions about going to school and they mostly are about what the day is going to look like and those common fears about being away from mommy and daddy. So a lot of our preparation right now is being led by her and her questions. We don’t want to force activities on her, she will learn when she is ready to and we have found forcing her to do learning activities can sometimes increase her anxiety about going to school and results in less participation. By letting her lead the activities and questions we have found our daughter has opened up to us more, asked more questions and participated in activities about learning more.
We’ve been using books to help prepare her for what school is going to look like. Our favourite right now is from Usborne Books “All You Need to Know Before you Start School". Click here.
This book is great for learning what a day at school would look like and also has some activities you can do throughout it. Another favourite is the dry erase books from Usborne which you can find here.
They have a great variety in their wipe clean books and I find Lily enjoys doing these most. It is a great quiet activity for her to sit and practice writing her letters and numbers. I love that there is no pressure if she makes a mistake she can just wipe it clean and start over again. We can also give our 18 month old one to scribble in to be just like his big sister. I find that when we set up an activity for our daughter our 18 month old son typically shows interest in what she is doing. It may just be watching her but it could be copying what she is doing also. I find that by encouraging them to do an activity together it helps teach them to share, be patient and work with others.
The other activity we do often is sensory activities in our Active World Tray from Scholars Choice. This has probably been one of our best purchases. What I love about this tray is it is great for setting up activities, keeping it contained and encouraging our kids to explore their senses. We’ve been using this tray for years and had so much fun playing in it. Whether it is through making a volcano, setting up a farm, a car wash station or some paint the kids love to explore together or individually. We often will set up an activity in the tray and leave it over a period of time for them to go back and forth to. It usually results in lots of imaginative play and some questions about the topic of the day.
Ultimately I find learning at home for us right now is a lot about play and exploration. By getting down on the floor with our kids and playing with them we have learned so much from them. Also by letting them help us with daily tasks such as cooking, cleaning, organizing and taking care of a newborn. We are able to implement so many learning opportunities such as patience, sharing, cooking (numbers and food groups) and so much more. I find we see what they’ve learned already coming out through their play. Oftentimes in Lily’s play she will start asking questions through her dolls or we play school and it's a great opportunity for us to answer her questions in a normalized way for her. It doesn’t always have to be in a structured sit down activity. It is amazing what children will pick up through the use of play and their imagination.
We are working on some new content about helping prepare your children for school and would love it if you followed along and shared how you are helping your kids prepare for school too.
By Julie Diamond
Does your child understand the book they’re reading? Here are some ways to check:
1. Answer questions: Read the back of the book or skim a few pages then ask your child questions.
2. Make connections: “This character reminds me of…”, “When _________it was the same as this other book I read when they did ___________” or “When the family was stuck in their house it’s similar to us being stuck inside now.” If your child is able to put themselves in the character’s shoes and compare it to things, events and people they know, they understand.
3. See what you read: Get your child to describe what they see when they read. Encourage them to make a movie in their mind and use their senses to experience the story.
4. Be curious and ask questions: Good readers are curious and ask questions which help make predictions. “I wonder…”, “Why did that happen?” or “Maybe the character felt this way because…”
5. Make inferences together: An inference is when you predict what will happen based on what is implied in the story. Look for hints. “I think _______ will happen because the author wrote _______.” For example, if your child read about a character who has a diaper in her hand, spit-up on her shirt, and a bottle warming on the counter you could infer the character is a mother.
Some readers don't know what to do when they are confused so they continue reading. However, there are things you can teach your child to do when they don't understand a book. For example, they could:
1. Go back and start at the beginning of the page or chapter.
2. Stop reading and use a reading strategy listed above.
3. Ask for guidance from an adult and/or someone who has read the book. They can see how much they have understood so far.
4. If none of the above seem to help, they may want to decide whether or not this book is above their reading level. Do they understand the vocabulary? Are they familiar/comfortable with this author's writing style? If not, then they might want to choose another book.
The best way to introduce these strategies to your child is to model them yourself. Start with one strategy at a time while you’re reading a book together and build from there.
Julie Diamond is a certified teacher in Canada and the founder of Teachers to Go.
Julie Diamond speaking at the OISE conference for Alternative, Innovative and Inspiring Career Paths for Teachers at the University of Toronto.
Jenna Srigley is the administrative assistant at Teachers to Go and offers invaluable insight as a mom of 2 teens.